Tell all on Dengvaxia, Dr. Janette Garin

Former DOH Secretary Janette Garin tried to inject a dose of dramatics into her scheduled appearance before the joint hearings of the Senate blue ribbon, finance, health and demographics committees this morning and testify on what transpired in the P3.5 billion purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines a little less than two years ago.Janette Garin

On Friday, Garin checked into a private hospital in Tacloban City after she supposedly felt acute abdominal pain. Her doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute appendicitis, her chief of staff said. But Garin, whose husband Oscar Richard Jr. is the incumbent congressman of the 1st district of Iloilo, has asked her doctors to postpone surgery so she could attend the hearing.

It will be a tough morning for Garin at the Senate should she really attend despite her supposed condition. There is a storm of public condemnation against her and former President Noynoy Aquino over their rushed procurement and implementation of the vaccination program despite strong objections by experts. Several lies told by Garin have also been exposed. For instance, she denied having met with Sanofi Pasteur company officials when she visited Paris two years ago. She had to recant and admit it when ABS-CBN reported on a DFA dispatch detailing the meeting.

Emerging facts support insinuations that the transaction is bursting at the seams with corruption. My sources estimate that the kickbacks could run into more than a billion pesos, definitely making it one of the biggest single corruption cases in our history. But this corruption is only secondary to the possible health hazards from the administration of the vaccine on Filipino children from the age of 9 and up. This is already being described as an act of genocide.

Garin should confess to the truth. She should not blame ex-President Aquino because it is clear the transaction was hers. Aquino himself cannot completely wash his hands. He showed his incompetence and naivete in allowing politics to dictate on decisions even though there was sufficient warning on the adverse effects it might have on the children.

Inexperience

With just over a month before Filipino voters head for the polling precincts to cast their ballots and pick their new set of leaders, I feel compelled to ventilate my opinions about issues raised against Senator Grace Poe, particularly on her so-called lack of experience to lead this nation.
One only needs to do a quick review of history to find out that there is no job experience that prepares an individual to be a leader of nations or armies. In fact, the greatest leaders of the world didn’t have an impressive track record that marked them for the important roles they played in their nations’ histories. The same can be said about military leaders. Leadership is more of character, an ability to bring together people and forge a national agenda. It is about decision-making and a courage to tackle difficult challenges. Often, great leaders just leap out of the shadows, where they used to occupy positions of little significance.
Perhaps a good example would be General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Before the outbreak of World War II, Ike was just a major doing menial staff work for the flashy General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. Ike was a quiet, unassuming army officer who went about doing his work efficiently, meticulously. He was hardly noticed except by his superiors who came to depend on him to deliver on the tasks assigned to him. There was nothing spectacular about Ike.
But in just a matter of three years, Ike climbed through the military career ladder in rapid fashion, ultimately becoming the Supreme Allied Commander who successfully led the combined American and British forces that liberated Europe from the grips of the Axis powers – Germany and Italy. The more popular generals like George Patton and Omar Bradley became his subordinates. Even the irrepressible British general Bernard Montgomery had to play second fiddle to him.
In politics, the late Ferdinand E. Marcos seemed destined to be the country’s best leader. A war hero, Bar top notcher, brilliant Congressman and Senator, Marcos had a track record that many politicians coveted. On top of that, he had a very beautiful wife in Imelda Romualdez. While he had a good start, including the first few years of martial law, Marcos became mired in corruption and human rights violations that he was ultimately toppled down in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Where does this put Grace Poe?
Senator Poe’s public service as chairman of the MTCRB was brief. But she was able to establish a good track record that boosted the public’s confidence enough to make her number one Senator in the 2013 national elections. As Senator, she demonstrated intelligence and courage in carrying out her legislative work. Her highest point was in conducting the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano massacre as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs in which she showed depth of understanding and probity in delving into the misadventure of an inept commander in chief and his best friend who was suspended as PNP director general.
Apparently, Senator Poe captured the confidence of many Filipinos, and this encouraged her to seek the Presidency despite entreaties of the Aquino administration to recruit her as running mate for Mar Roxas. And I would say that Senator Poe has the makings of a good President. She has an ability to break down complex issues and present them in as simple a manner as possible for people to understand. More importantly, she knows how to get talented individuals to work together. She does not hesitate to seek advice and listen to suggestions. There is no arrogance in her personality.
Finally, Senator Poe has shown she can stand her ground against the so-called tougher male rivals for the Presidency. She thinks well on her feet, and always comes thoroughly prepared in facing tough questioning. During a forum in Iloilo City last February, Senator Poe was confronted by a hostile question at the University of Iloilo. She listened calmly and answered in a cool voice, never showing the slightest trace of irritation, the university professor who threw that question.
Courage and calm under fire might yet become Senator Poe’s greatest asset. The Presidency is not an easy job, and more than on-the-job experience, the individual wielding its powers will need more of EQ than IQ. She finds it easy to navigate through the minefields of politics to pursue what needs to be done, unmindful of the swollen toes which she might step on. Leadership isn’t about knowledge of the job; it’s more of tough character to do what matters most to get the job done.

None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

Is Binay making a break-away?

Two national newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, reported on a Pulse Asia presidential survey conducted on December 4-11, 2015 showing that Vice President Jojo Binay has regained the lead among the contenders to become the next President of the Republic.

The survey was done nationwide with 1,800 respondents. It showed that if elections were held during the survey period, Binay would get 33% of the people’s vote.

Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were statistically tied at second place, with Duterte getting 23% and Poe, 21%.

The administration’s candidate, Mar Roxas, was fourth with 17%. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rounded up the field with 4% of the projected vote.

This survey result validates my blog post last week that Binay has hit rock bottom while Roxas has hit the ceiling. Binay can’t possibly sink lower than the 31% he previously obtained while Roxas would have a hard time rising above 15%. The 2% improvement he achieved isn’t going to make a difference as the race is about to formally start on February 9, 2016.

This makes the efforts of the administration to eliminate the leading contenders through disqualification futile. Even if Poe and Duterte are disqualified, Binay would remain in the race because he cannot be charged formally before the Sandiganbayan on account of his immunity from suit. This means the idea of dislodging Binay by locking him up in jail before the elections is wishful thinking.

Roxas cannot hope to attract the Poe and Duterte votes if and when these two are eliminated from the presidential derby. A minimum of 80% of the Poe and Duterte votes will shift to Binay. What we’re seeing is a national expression of disapproval for Roxas, and there’s no way it would change in the home stretch.

This is the fundamental mistake in the political strategy of the administration. Roxas could not win by destroying his rivals before the court of public opinion and through legal means. The Liberal Party was overpowered by its own arrogance and believing its own propaganda that the “matuwid na daan” was making people happy.

The only way for Roxas to win under the circumstances is change the rules to “pirdi-gana”, a term used in the Filipino game of “dama” where the losing side in the end will emerge as winner.

The way things are going, the PCOS would not even be able to salvage a victory for him, because when the lead is so big, cheating would only spark violence and unrest for the nation.

But of course we can never underestimate Roxas and the Liberal Party: They might sacrifice the nation for their own personal ambition and survival.

More questions on Odicta habeas corpus

After I exposed the circumstances that surrounded the release of Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. on June 7, 1995, particularly on the dubious legality of the writ of habeas corpus issued by Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 276 Judge Norma C. Perello, I was swamped with more leads that raise more questions about the whole affair.

Over coffee, I solicited the view of retired Guimaras RTC Judge Merlin Deloria on whether or not the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus was proper in basically shortening the prison sentence of Odicta, who was convicted for selling marijuana to undercover narcotics agents of the defunct PC/INP way back in March 1993 and sentence to life imprisonment.

At first, Judge Deloria was reluctant to give his opinion. He was totally in the dark about the case, he said. So I outlined to him the facts of the case from the conviction by the Iloilo RTC to the Supreme Court affirmation of the conviction and then the filing of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

After I had covered the breadth and length of the case in a span of 10 minutes, Judge Deloria asked me the question: “Where was he detained at the time he filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus before the Muntinlupa RTC?”

Judge Deloria was once my professor in Taxation in law school, and I always admired his sharp analytical mind that made him one of the favorite professors in all the years he was teaching at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City.

At once, I saw his brilliant mind at work with that question.  The National Bilibid Prison was in Muntinlupa City, making the RTC Branch 276 a proper venue for the filing of such action. But I knew that Odicta wasn’t confined at the Bilibid prison. He was serving his sentence at the Sablayan Penal Colony in Mindoro Occidental.

Judge Deloria’s question tackled the issue of jurisdiction. If Odicta was confined in Mindoro Occidental, then the Muntinlupa RTC had no jurisdiction over him.

The doubtful legality of the writ of habeas corpus as legal basis for Odicta’s release from prison didn’t end there. Judge Deloria said he didn’t think the habeas corpus proceedings was sufficient to overturn the final conviction and sentence to life imprisonment based on R.A. 7659 that revised the schedule of penalties.

There should have been a separate petition for Odicta to avail of the shorter prison term under R.A. 7659, according to Judge Deloria.

With this development, the Aksyon Radyo Iloilo management is planning to file a petition before the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of the writ of habeas corpus. Odicta had filed a libel complaint against anchorman Jun Capulot, station manager and anchorman John Paul Tia and the chief executive officer of Manila Broadcasting Co.

This mulled petition to nullify the writ of habeas corpus may result in Odicta being sent back to prison and wait for a proper judicial order applying the shorter jail term in his favor.

 

Varnished

(Coffeebreak, December 15, 2015)

Mar Roxas has a simple game plan in his bid to become the next President of the Republic of the Philippines: varnish his image with artificial gloss and eliminate his rivals through a host of legal maneuvers.

We’ve already seen Roxas lift a sack of rice. Also garlic. He tried his hand at being a firefighter and a traffic aide under the rain. He played the role of an ice carver, and even posed on a block of ice lying on his side for photographers. He pedaled a pedicab. And the list is growing longer and longer.

But these are cheap gimmicks that only boomeranged on Roxas the moment pictures came out on social media. Much as he tried to mimic the acts of ordinary Filipinos who have to endure backbreaking work to survive, there is simply no way Roxas could pass for one. That he was born rich, and never had to wonder where his next meal would come from, was glaring from the onset of such efforts.

These last few days, Roxas was again under fire in social media.

This time, he came under heavy criticism for labeling himself as a “Wharton graduate” in his curriculum vitae. It was another deceitful claim to add luster to his name, which had struggled to rise past the 15% mark in survey after survey.

While it was not entirely false, it was a misrepresentation. That’s because “Wharton graduates” in the layman’s understanding refer to those who have obtained their MBAs from this prestigious school in the University of Pennsylvannia.

Roxas earned his undergraduate degree from Wharton-UPenn without distinction. It was an education that his wealthy status made possible for him. Of course, he had to study hard to complete the baccalaureate degree. However, it didn’t give him a distinction that MBAs from this college are accorded with respect and admiration.

Wharton alumni always accompany its name with the extension, “UPenn.” But in the case of Roxas, he merely put Wharton as his alma mater, giving the impression that he finished his MBA there.

The Wharton MBA program is considered one of the premier training grounds for corporate executives, almost at par with the Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Yale and Northwestern University have similar programs that are regarded as topnotch.

That’s why a Wharton MBA is given a premium when it appears on a young corporate upstart’s curriculum vitae. It is regarded as a badge of distinction. It is a symbol of an individual’s capability to analyze complex problems and provide leadership in any organization.

It is not to denigrate the undergraduate program at Wharton. But in the scheme of things, a holder of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton can never be placed in the same platform. In experience, training and leadership capability, the Wharton MBA will be two or three notches above a B.S. degree holder.

I can’t blame Roxas though for trying to sneak this through.

He needs to shellac his image as he enters the home stretch of the presidential race. The official campaign period for national candidates won’t kick off until February 9, 2016, but the contenders for the presidency have been barnstorming around the country for months now. And yet, Roxas remains a poor third or fourth in the surveys. His ratings have hit the ceiling at 15%.

Nothing seems to work for Roxas.

His endorser, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, had hoped Roxas’s numbers would rise after he raised the Liberal Party’s standard bearer last September 30. Since then, Roxas has tapped celebrity endorsements, including a music video featuring the talents of ABS-CBN. Roxas has also the backing of congressmen, governors and mayors.

Despite all these efforts to catapult Roxas to the front of the race, he struggles to rise above his current survey rating of only 15%. In a manner of speaking, he has hit the ceiling. He continues to eat the dust of Davao City mayor Digong Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and even the battle-scarred Vice President Jojo Binay.

Clearly, Roxas has a serious problem. How can he expect to become President when he can’t even come close enough to winning against his opponents? With less than one-fourth of the projected votes, he can’t even be regarded as a serious contender.

Of course there’s the elimination game ala “trip to Jerusalem” that the Liberal Party is playing. There’s a good chance Senator Grace Poe might be disqualified. Duterte, too, will face the same troubles. And knowing the LP’s determination to ram through its effort to win the Presidency for Roxas by hook or by crook, Duterte’s being swept aside from the race is not remote.

The scenario that’s being set should leave Roxas standing alone in the ring.

But wait, there’s still Binay. After a whole year of bashing and harassing the brown-skinned man from Makati City hasn’t been knocked down. In fact, Binay remains ahead of Roxas in the surveys — way ahead.

This presents a tough problem for Roxas: if the LP succeeds in eliminating Poe and Duterte, it can’t just get rid of Binay. That’s because the scenario calls for Binay being thrown in jail. And Binay enjoys immunity from suit. He can’t be charged criminally until after June 30, 2016.

In short, Binay’s name will remain a contender for the Presidency on May 16, 2016. He has 31% of the projected vote if elections are held today. If Poe and Duterte and DQ’d, I can bet most of their votes will go for Binay. It’s not because people don’t believe Binay is corrupt; but Filipinos believe Roxas will make a worse President than Mr. Aquino.

From a rock-bottom of 31%, Binay has the potential to rise above the 51% mark on election day to win majority of the votes cast. Roxas will be left eating more dust than he did when Binay beat him for the Vice Presidency in 2010.

It becomes clear that no matter how coats of shellac or varnish Roxas puts on his name, he still won’t be able to remove the people’s dislike for him. He can spray himself with all the best known deodorizers, but the rotten smell of a bad President simply won’t disappear.

Blood in his hands

There is a clear effort to steer away the blame from the Commander-in-Chief, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, over the bloody‪#‎MamasapanoClash‬ fiasco.
But we have to remember that it happened because Mr. Aquino broke all the rules. He embarked on this operation without the knowledge and participation of his national security team. He entrusted it to his suspended friend, Alan Purisima.
It was the President himself who disregarded the chain of command. He violated the Constitution and the law. It matters little what information was filtered to him on the day on the operation. He must take full responsibility for what happened. The blame must not just fall on Police Director Getulio Napeñas. It should not even fall on Purisima.
No matter how hard he tries to wash his hands, the blood will forever glisten with freshness in his hands.